This month, Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre introduces their third production of the season, Ken Ludwig’s The Fox on the Fairway. Directed by Sean O’Shea and starring Ann Guynn, Jon Koons, Rodney Baker, Kathy Marden, Katherine Bottoms, and George Coe, The Fox on the Fairway plays golf for laughs as the rival country clubs Quail Valley and Crouching Squirrel meet in their annual interclub tournament rivalry. The match goes down over the course of one tense and emotionally complex weekend of hard-fought tournament golf, all of which frames this classic English farce. As O’Shea puts it, “It’s farce, so don’t expect the characters to change. What you can expect is that they will behave in ways that they wouldn’t if they weren’t so desperate.” The specific elements that drive these desperate folks include a lost engagement ring, a seductive club member, a whopping side bet, and a last-minute change in the lineup.
Talking to O’Shea about the use of golf clubs on Circle Bar B’s small stage, he was candid about his concerns. “Swinging a club under a ceiling that’s seven feet high, and with people in the front row less than six feet away — yes, I wondered how that would work.” His answer? “I went in and tested it myself, and it can be done — there’s an adjustment on the backswing, but it works.” This observation led O’Shea to make a whole string of reflections — not on golf, or the size of the stage, but on directing farce: “This type of comedy is highly technical; it’s truly a game of inches. Everything has to be exactly right, because, as in golf, a tiny error in the execution will have an outsized impact on the result. When I work with the actors, I always remind them that in a farce, despite the fact that you’re playing your intentions 10 times bigger than normal, you’ve still got to go with honesty, because the characters don’t know they’re in a farce. To them, it’s all a matter of life and death.” Circle Bar B has made its reputation among those who savor the rigors and delights of this carefully planned, yet thoroughly anarchic, genre of traditional stage comedy.
But what makes The Fox on the Fairway a play that’s specifically about golf? O’Shea had this to say about the game and its connection to the show: “I’ve played golf since I was 9, and I did have to spend some time with the cast getting them up to speed on all the terms so that they would get the jokes, because the script is saturated with real golf references.” But the other way in which the spirit of the game gets into the story is through the central dilemma of one of the characters, who loses his nerve on the course under the pressure of tournament play. As O’Shea said, “one of the biggest dangers for a golfer is to be thrown off by a bad shot — to not get over it. And part of the message of this play, and of all farce for that matter, is that you have to play the next shot, because you can’t replay the last one.” It’s an outlook that’s applicable to a lot of things, and visitors to Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre for The Fox on the Fairway can look forward to seeing some great actors playing through the 18 holes of Ken Ludwig’s comic course.
The Fox on the Fairway will be at the Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre (1800 Refugio Rd., Goleta) Thursday-Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons July 25-September 8. For tickets and info, call (805) 967-1962 or visit circlebarbtheatre.com.